Idan Raichel Project
Idan Raichel was under no mandate to become a musician. Born in Israel to an Ashkenazi family that wasn't particularly musical, Raichel nevertheless took up instrument after instrument: he studied the accordion as a kid, played jazz in high school and used his mandatory two-year army service to join the Army rock band. When he left the Army, Raichel took a job in Tel Aviv counseling immigrant children, many of whom were Ethiopian Jews. Intrigued by Ethiopian culture, Raichel started seeking out bars that played Ethiopian music, and he quickly found himself introduced to music by greats like Mahmoud Ahmed and Aster Aweke. At the same time, he'd begun working as a session musician for some of Israel's bigger acts. When he finally decided it was time to make his own music, Raichel reached out to a number of musicians and ended up collaborating with over 70 artists. The result was The Idan Raichel Project, an album that combined Raichel's electronic know-how with Israel's stunning and under-recognized cultural diversity. Unorthodox and decidedly un-pop, the album made Raichel a sensation.